Caroline Baum takes apart the mortgage default driving the economy meme, calling it “nonsense”:

“There’s an even bigger problem with the idea that mortgage defaults are driving consumer spending. When a homeowner misses a mortgage payment, “somebody’s not getting a payment” on the other side, said Thomas Lawler, founder and president of Lawler Housing and Economic Consulting in Leesburg, Virginia.

A mortgage lender or bank experiences reduced cash flow, which means less money flowing to shareholders who, the last time I checked, were consumers in their own right.

Sure, one can argue that the borrower has a greater propensity to consume than the lender, but this is a case of what Lawler calls “single-entry analysis for double-entry bookkeeping” and what I view as an example of Bastiat’s broken window. (See Bastiat, Frederic, “That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen.”)

It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul or, more applicable to the current situation, borrowing or taxing the public and calling it “fiscal stimulus.” There is no net gain from transferring spending power from one entity to the next.”

If we really want to drive the economy, opines Baum, we should waive all mortgages and rent obligations!  That would really goose consumer spending!

>

Source:
Honey, I Lost the House. Now It’s Time to Party
Caroline Baum
BusinessWeek, April 22, 2010
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-21/honey-i-lost-the-house-now-it-s-time-to-party-caroline-baum.html

Category: Consumer Spending, Credit, Economy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

40 Responses to “Honey, I Lost the House — Time to Party!”

  1. alpha_bet says:

    That is just ridiculous. Does she really think money flows to shareholders that quickly? I understand the long term implications of the lack of cash going to the banks, but the consumers can spend the money far more quickly than the banks can, hence the pick-up/”upbeat” consumer illusion.

  2. YouthInAsia says:

    “A mortgage lender or bank experiences reduced cash flow, which means less money flowing to shareholders who, the last time I checked, were consumers in their own right.”

    Dumb. Not that I necessarily believe the argument I’m about to make, but that money not being spent on mortgages still ends up as demand for bank shares, driving their prices up which adds to the bottom line of their shareholders who can then cash out and spend.

    It’s probably mostly pent up demand. I was unemployed from Feb-Oct of last year. We reduced “wasteful” spending by 50% if not more. We recently closed on a new home ( 15% discount to its Jan 2008 sale price) and I’m starting to wonder if our consumption is going to stop (new lawnmower, new kitchen flooring, $400 in paint, two new Droids, etc).

  3. ella says:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2011668875_beacon22.html Strag

    The sanctity of contracts and moral hazard, appear to be useful concepts for creditors but not for debtors. Strategic defaults for the big boys are moral but for the homeowner they are referenced as immoral, a violation of the sanctity contracts. Time to realize any contract can be modified, violated or breached.

    “Boston-based Beacon Capital Partners borrowed $2.7 billion to buy the Seattle-area properties and 11 others in the Washington, D.C., area in 2007, at the height of the real-estate boom. The package included the 47-story Wells Fargo Center in downtown Seattle and the 27-story City Center Bellevue in downtown Bellevue.”

    “And Beacon says it isn’t willing to pump any more of its own money into leasing, improving or paying debt on the buildings without a “meaningful loan modification,” according to the rating agency.”

    “We’re seeing a lot of these ‘strategic defaults,’ ” said Ben Thypin, senior market analyst with Real Capital Analytics, a commercial real-estate research firm in New York. “Beacon could probably pay the mortgage, but the properties are worth less now, and they don’t want to make payments based on outdated values.”

  4. DP says:

    I just spent $800 at home depot, but my lawn guy lost out on $150 a month. Already cut all the “easy to cut” things, now I have to spend money to reduce my overall monthly cost of living. Just another little anecdote that for me at least is very real.

  5. Kort says:

    What a lousy article by a usually smart woman. As already asked, does she think money flows to shareholders that quickly? More importantly, in her “single/double” entry paragraphs, the Banks have cash (and recently, plenty of profits) and can absorb the non-payments while the peasants keep the money (and spend it).

    The banks have ‘savings’—cash on hand.

    The consumer not so much, and can free up cash flow by skipping payments.

  6. wcvarones says:

    Wrong. The cash not flowing to the banks is being covered up in the “extend and pretend” game. The government and FASB are encouraging banks to delay loss recognition, and the banks can borrow all the cash they need from the Fed at near 0%.

    Caroline Baum is not paying attention.

  7. As Baum makes clear, it never hurts to brush-up on, or start learning about, some Bastiat..

    “Joseph Schumpeter described Bastiat nearly a century after his death as “the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.” …
    “Bastiat made no original contribution to economics, if we use “contribution” the way most economists use it. That is, we cannot associate one law, theorem, or pathbreaking empirical study with his name. But in a broader sense Bastiat made a big contribution: his fresh and witty expressions of economic truths made them so understandable and compelling that the truths became hard to ignore…”
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Bastiat.html
    ~~
    The Bastiat Society
    Those who work in freedom should know how freedom works.
    http://bastiatsociety.com/
    ~~
    “…the main underlying theme of Bastiat’s writings was that the free market was inherently a source of “economic harmony” among individuals, as long as government was restricted to the function of protecting the lives, liberties, and property of citizens from theft or aggression. To Bastiat, governmental coercion was only legitimate if it served “to guarantee security of person, liberty, and property rights, to cause justice to reign over all.”[1]…”
    “…Bastiat’s first published article appeared in April of 1834. It was a response to a petition by the merchants of Bordeaux, Le Havre, and Lyons to eliminate tariffs on agricultural products but to maintain them on manufacturing goods. Bastiat praised the merchants for their position on agricultural products, but excoriated them for their hypocrisy in wanting protectionism for themselves. “You demand privilege for a few,” he wrote, whereas “I demand liberty for all.”[3]…”
    http://mises.org/about/3227

  8. Mannwich says:

    Exactly wcvarones. Baum’s premise is as flawed as the other side of the argument (which I think has enough merit to at least think about and analyze further without immediately dismissing). Not even worth posting, Barry, unless you feel that insecure about your own argument that you have to pull out as many flawed arguments as you can to support yours? I don’t get it.

  9. Richard R says:

    Dreamland. The only option for the banks is foreclosure and eviction, not only forcing a mark to market , but also dumping enough new houses on the market to depress home values a lot more. Hello insolvency. Why is it surprising that people are gaming the situation? Isn’t this what bankers do for a living?

  10. DeDude says:

    That meme is no better founded in reality than the CRA meme. Yes in theory it may have a minor effect on the margin but the last straw have no effect without the haystack.

  11. Mannwich says:

    And strangely enough, this situation works (for a while) if everyone is willing to play along. We lie to each other and pretend to believe each other. It works!

  12. ashpelham2 says:

    I don’t see the run up in home prices as any different than the run up in stock prices or run up in any other prices. Except commodities. Particularly oil. I still, for the life of me, don’t understand why more isn’t done to regulate the markets of energy, as it is something we simply cannot live without, and billions of people are forced into hardship if the price goes too far out of line with reality. See: Summer 2008. I’d like to apply a sledgehammer for regulating crude’s trade to only those who will take delivery of the base product, or it’s derivatives, or actual usable fuel. Everyone else needs to get their rocks off in other speculation.

    Back more on topic, the only way that markets sort themselves back out is for all the losses from over-speculation on an asset to be REALIZED. It sucks, but those who lent the money directly out on speculative RE investments must suffer. Those who borrowed the money to speculate with must suffer.

    It’s the only way. We are just prolonging this thing if we try cheap debt to prop it all up.

  13. wunsacon says:

    Here’s what I’m thinking on this:

    - People, be they employed or not, who decide to stop (or are unable to continue) paying the mortgage are probably spending the money elsewhere. (Counter-proposition: They’re saving it. How likely is that?)

    - Consumer spending sources are fungible. Whether people are spending income or spending savings, both add to spending. Without the hidden stimulus, spending would be affected.

    - Banks do not report losses right away. Indeed, in the era of “extend and pretend”, they now take even longer.

    - If 7 million people aren’t paying mortgages that average $10k/year, that’s an extra $70B/year of temporarily “free money” being spent but not being written off.

    However:

    - The $.07T figure sure seems like a small drop in a $10.00T economy.

    So, while I think “default spending” is real, it doesn’t seem to add up to much.

  14. wunsacon says:

    To quibble with some of the quotes in the post:

    >> Sure, one can argue that the borrower has a greater propensity to consume than the lender, but this is a case of what Lawler calls “single-entry analysis for double-entry bookkeeping” and what I view as an example of Bastiat’s broken window. (See Bastiat, Frederic, “That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen.”)

    But, the “wealth” of rich corporate shareholders is based on the propensity of the poor to spend money and drive earnings at those corporations. If the poor stop spending, valuation multiples will decline. “Double-entry bookkeeping” does not attempt to model that causality.

    >> It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul or, more applicable to the current situation, borrowing or taxing the public and calling it “fiscal stimulus.” There is no net gain from transferring spending power from one entity to the next.”

    I’d agree with ‘no “real” gain’ over a long time. But, over a short time in nominal numbers? I disagree. Enron and Lehman are good examples of how widely nominal perceptions can vary from “real” over short (or even “not-so-short”) periods of time.

  15. pmorrisonfl says:

    It is plausible to me that the receivers of mortgage payment cash flow may not all be recording and publishing their results accurately.
    It is also plausible to me that there are more consumers than shareholders.
    Both of these thoughts lead me to read the Baum article with as large a grain of salt as the ‘Honey, I Lost the House — Time to Party!’ meme.

  16. V says:

    * Wal-Mart sales strategy reflects reduced purchasing power of US consumer

    Retail leader Wal-Mart announced on 9 April that it would lower the prices on 10,000 of its
    products in response to a Q1 decline in US store sales, calling into question the oft-heard
    argument that retail sales are strong. The chain also said it plans to cut more prices in the
    future.
    There are two possible causes for the drop in sales at Wal-Mart. One is that incomes have
    risen, causing consumption to shift from the chain’s inexpensive offerings to higher-end
    products. The other is that the weak economy has caused a further reduction in consumers’
    purchasing power.
    That Wal-Mart is addressing the drop in sales with further price cuts suggests that the
    company’s executives believe the latter scenario is the more likely. If they attributed the drop in
    sales to rising incomes, they would instead have announced a shift in their product mix to
    higher-quality, higher-priced items.

    From Richard Koo,- it doesn’t sound like a consumer spend up to me.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/Koo%20April%2020.pdf

  17. me says:

    So let me see if I understand what 3 of you have said. Baum is wrong and her argument is flawed. Got it. Now what if you are wrong and the shareholders are not waiting for their dividend, but someone wanting to buy a house or get a loan on a car. If someone isn’t paying the bank, then someone is not getting a loan.

  18. Mike in Nola says:

    Banks are hoarding cash to cover their losses, aren’t lending and, I have the impression, not paying much in the way of dividends. So whatever gets paid to the bank is frozen there and not recirculated. Not that I think the defaults is the main things driving purchasing, merely onee factor.

    Forgot to mention the wealth effect yesterday. All those people whose 401k’s are back up to 80% of the precrash high think it’s fine to go buy unneed stuff as they were doing before the crash.

  19. Casual Observer says:

    Do you really think banks and consumers aren’t engaged in a dance with the devil ? As long as delinquencies are rising, the banking system’s problems continue to mount. This recession will continue to prove that unemployment is a secular trend with private employment at a net loss of jobs from 1998. Seems to me banks have a debt to income problem on these loans and it continues to get worse.

  20. 54% of Households Have Someone Who’s Been Without Work This Year

    Some commentators who take the economy’s temperature by watching Wall Street just don’t understand why consumers are so bummed. Look, they say, GDP is up! The S&P looks awesome! Hello, retail stocks! Well, yes. GDP is growing. The S&P is up 70% year-over-year. Retail stocks look nice. But this misses a bigger picture. Consumers are people, and consumer confidence grows from an improving labor market.

    So maybe this helps put things in perspective. In a new Pew survey, more than half of respondents said someone in the house has been without a job and looking for work in the past year. Nine months after the economy stopped shrinking, this is what a bummed recovery looks like:

    Annie Lowrey, who passes along this telling chart, also points to the 70 percent who reported major financial difficulty in the last year, including trouble paying for rent or health care. For analysts who wonder why consumers sound so depressed every time we ask for their opinion: please look at this chart carefully.

  21. jcmcn says:

    “If someone isn’t paying the bank, then someone is not getting a loan.”

    MeSays — Exactly. Many are not getting loans. See here just so. http://pragcap.com/a-self-sustaining-recovery-not-yet

  22. call me ahab says:

    BR-

    dude- do you buy into what Caroline Baum is saying? Or just throwing it out there for the “chuckle factor”?

  23. pmorrisonfl says:

    > If someone isn’t paying the bank, then someone is not getting a loan.

    And we could look at, say, Fed Reserve Statistical Report G.19, Consumer Credit, for evidence (that a lot of someone’s aren’t getting as many loans as they were).

  24. 4horsemen says:

    wcvarones has this one spot on. Nothing more needs to be added to refute Baum’s flimsy rationale.

    “The government and FASB are encouraging banks to delay loss recognition, and the banks can borrow all the cash they need from the Fed at near 0%. Caroline Baum is not paying attention.”

    This is all smoke and mirrors. When banks start demanding to be paid, losses will need to be recognized. They aren’t ready for that. With the banks’ lack of aggression in going after payments comes more confidence amongst the delinquent in spending with (at least part of) the savings. As for the “lost cash flow” to bank shareholders…Baum needs to read some financial statements. First, these banks have de minimus dividend offerings at present, and have not been cutting the dividends more than they did last year. Second, they continue to mint money on the Fed Spreads and trading revs.

    I suspect even Barry knew we would rip this lame argument apart, somewhere deep inside.

    And I just have to address “YouthInAsia’s” comments:

    “I was unemployed from Feb-Oct of last year. We reduced “wasteful” spending by 50% if not more. We recently closed on a new home ( 15% discount to its Jan 2008 sale price) and I’m starting to wonder if our consumption is going to stop (new lawnmower, new kitchen flooring, $400 in paint, two new Droids, etc).

    Why did you not eliminate wasteful spending altogether when you were jobless? And now you have had a job for a whopping 5 months and you are already buying a new home and making upgrades and buying toys? This is testament to the stickiness of American spending habits. Good grief!

  25. greedsgood4 says:

    Weak, weak argument.

    Banks postpone foreclosure and avoid MTM.

    Consumers enjoy mortgage (rent)-free hiatus and feel a sense of “winning” and hence spend frivolously. It’s poor logic to assume that the type of consumer to default would be responsible enough to save for the future.

    Just this morning, I received an email from a financially distressed client – one line.
    “I may never want to sacrifice today for tomorrow…”

  26. WFTA says:

    Since I don’t have any data to back this up, it will be about like all the other opinions expressed in this comment section:

    In spring of 2008 a considerable tax rebate was returned to Americans whose incomes were below a certain level. I would posit that families at 2-3X poverty level either saved it or paid off cc debt. In either case, it may finally be getting spent.

    Also 48% of households have just been told they didn’t pay income taxes and their 401k’s have recovered about 60% of the ’08-’09 crash. People with jobs probably feel like spending a little. J.A. Bank is having a sale next week. I’m probably going to buy a new suit, and I am the original skin-flint.

    Like anuses, everybody’s got one and most of them stink.

  27. DoctoRx says:

    Plus the same Fed policy that gives the banks the greatest spreads in history cause consumers to want to spend today assuming price increases tomorrow.

    Plus one needs to consider other strategic non-payments beyond mortgages.

    When David Rosenberg thinks this is a source of strength in consumer spending, I wouldn’t dismiss the thought.

  28. Nately says:

    As many commentators have already pointed, what if the entity on other side of the books doesn’t have to properly account for the “real” cashflow impact of not receiving a payment? What is they could change definitions of non-performance, rework payment schedules, forebear P & I payments, and have almost total flexibility is marking their loan books value? It’s not a what if, it’s the reality of the post FAS 157 world. Now, of course, not all mortgages are still held on bank books (vs. being a security in some pension fund’s portfolio), but a very large percentage of them still are. The banks, as we are know, are in serious extend and pretend with the full backing and encouragement of the FASB and the Fed, Treasury, FDIC, etc. If we pretend the monster under the bed’s not there long enough, he’ll just go away — “yay!”

    Go dig into WFC’s first quarter 10-Q and tell me what you see — go take a look at the nonaccruing loan book and changes to definitions that have happened over the last several quarters.

    Baum’s rebuttal to the meme — a basic accounting identity — is not sufficient to disprove the overall thesis. And I think people who advocate for this “meme” (a highly over-used word BTW) are readily agreeing that it is not NECESSARILY driving all spending, but could be an important marginal contributor. I am certainly not wholly convinced of the default-to-shopping-spree phenomena being a big factor in consumer spending, but this rebuttal is absolutely not convincing in any way.

  29. Nately says:

    More Baumism:

    “Maybe it’s my age or my upbringing, but I can’t imagine frittering away the interest payments on a delinquent mortgage when the sheriff might show up any day with an eviction notice.”

    Wrong again — what if the Sheriff’s deputies aren’t showing up — at all? Or many months into default? Look around many, many large metropolitan Sheriffs will simply not do evictions any more or do them very grudgingly. And the banks and courts are not pressing them to do so. People are not stupid — they learn very quickly if they can squat in home for an extended period. That kind of knowledge spreads very quickly.

  30. Mysticdog says:

    “There is no net gain from transferring spending power from one entity to the next.”

    Ridiculous. Transferring money to people who already spend as much as they need to means that money just goes to inflate another investment. Transferring the money to entities who will actually use it to buy goods and services that drive the economy and employ people is much preferable to someone who uses it to buy a stock from someone else and the value of the money involved just gets absorbed in the stock price changes as investors trade pogs.

  31. M says:

    Okay, I read this turkey twice. Because BR posted it here I figured I must be missing some hidden point on the first go. I’d like a refund of my time, please.

    Where, may I ask, are the [bold]facts[/bold]? Isn’t the whole point of this series of posts that the meme of defaults boosting spending is not supported by data? And the counter is this fantastical drek without so much as a single case? An argument based on an absurd simplification of cash flows without theoretical or empirical support? I’m stymied, why did BR think was worth posting?

  32. Brendan says:

    Seriously, I’m not an economist and I know what the “velocity of money” is! So person A’s nest egg money in B of A gets spent just as fast as person B’s money who’s house has been foreclosed on because their reduced income forced them to choose between shoes for their kids today or paying the mortgage. Hmm… Yeah, that’s an apples-to-apples comparison…

    Glad I don’t subscribe to Business Week, it’d make me stupider! I understand the political motives and I understand op-eds, but why would a magazine, which needs to be seen as legitimate to sell copies, publish this? This is friggin’ high school level economics.

  33. SCTTD says:

    IMO that is pretty weak analysis and fails rigor.

    1. If a person doesn’t pay their mortgage they have dollar for dollar benefit
    2. If a bank has say 5% who don’t pay they have .05 to 1 reduction in spending.
    3. Shareholders benefit or decline from the impact of the bank not getting the mortgage payment is not correlated at all.

    Further, a simple review of the data available will prove that there are substanital (6M?) numbers not paying mortgage.

    To wit see FT article: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/60629f52-4cdc-11df-9977-00144feab49a.html

    For those of you not registered with FT, guts of article:

    As many as 6m people continue to live in their homes even though they are seriously delinquent or in some stage of foreclosure, according to Moody’s Economy.com. That figure excludes the 1m borrowers with mortgages undergoing trial and permanent modifications. Lender Processing Services, which tracks the mortgages on 40m homes, estimates that 1.4m borrowers have not made a single payment in the past year.

    “Many of these people are gaming the system,” said Ted Jadlos, a managing director at Lender Processing. Delinquent borrowers can expect to live in their homes for about 14 months before getting evicted, nearly double the length of time it took banks to foreclose before the housing crisis began, Mr Jadlos said.

    In some states, the lag is even longer. New Jersey residents are staying in their homes for 18 months after making their last payment, and in New York the grace period has lengthened to 16 months, according to Moody’s Economy.com.

    The logjam is partially due to a flood of foreclosures that has overwhelmed the legal and financial systems of many states. In Florida, 14 per cent of all loans are in foreclosure, compared with a historical average of 2 per cent. “The homes that are entering foreclosure are taking longer to get out,” said Michael Fratantoni, a vice-president with the Mortgage Bankers Association.

  34. adamj says:

    As others have pointed out, the logic is just stupid. The consumer who did not pay his mortgage, immediately has more funds. The banks on the other hand, have the luxury of accounting gimmicks and government sponsored extend and pretend programs. There is nowhere NEAR a 1-1 relationship, not even close.

  35. taikodrum says:

    I don’t know if the author’s logic was heading this way, but her position might be correct in the following way:

    Yes, consumers who don’t pay their mortgage have immediate funds, but by defaulting on that mortgage, at a certain tipping point, aren’t they depriving the lenders of having the resources (or resulting in much fewer mortgages offered through stricter lending standards) to fund further mortgages which would have resulted in new homeowner spending in appliances, lawn goods and other “start up” costs that new homeowners, especially in new construction, usually encounter?
    Just a thought.

  36. davefairtex says:

    So as I understand it, most of these mortgages are insured by somebody – Fannie and Freddie. (Remember how F&F recently bought a bunch of NPAs in order to save money on payments they were making to investors?) So when a homeowner stops making a payment, F&F step in and makes the investors whole, right? And of course F&F are both nationalized, so the payment is effectively coming from the US treasury – i.e. adding to the deficit.

    It’s another back door stimulus.

  37. Daffyorbugs says:

    The 90% of people who are employed feel much better than they did a year ago. They’re spending.
    Many things in the United States aren’t fair and there’s corruption everywhere. Just less so than in other countries. We’re an optimistic people and we believe in ourselves.

  38. call me ahab says:

    “We’re an optimistic people and we believe in ourselves.”

    you go daffy!

    regarding BR- please-

    the dude has his mind made up because he “knows” the truth- at least in his own mind- that he put this article up is enough to show that any argument that favors his view is as good as gold

  39. Captain Jack says:

    On cursory review, it sounds like Baum misses a few key points:

    1) Under conditions of extreme stress, consumers are willing to do extreme things. Imagine that, after a long and harrowing battle, you’ve finally given up on the hope of hanging on to your credit (and your house). What is the first emotion you are going to feel? A sense of relief. A sense that, while you’ve lost the fight, at least the struggle is over for a time. And then, being aware of your plight — shot credit, quite possibly a lost home in the long run — your next reaction may well be SCREW IT.

    The “time to party” reaction that Baum pooh-poohs is not one born of normal circumstance. It is one born of extreme stress, AFTER a period of catharsis having thrown in the towel on a major fight, in which the hope of maintaining good credit is wholly written off as a dream and a sunk cost.

    2) Memes are very powerful. It would be one thing for a homeowner to take such an anti-social action as to abandon fiscal responsibility, then go ‘party’, were it the case that no one else is doing it. But what happens when there is a sense that LOTS of people are doing it? What happens when everybody knows someone, directly or indirectly, who has been living rent free for a year and enjoying the experience?

    This meme is further reinforced by a righteous sense of payback. Why SHOULDN’T the aggrieved consumer stick it to the banks, this meme says, when those banks are the ones who destroyed the country and got bailed out in the first place?

    3) Regarding cash flows, the whole point is that BANKS ARE ACTING AS A BEARD, JUST AS AIG WAS A BEARD, in terms of distributing taxpayer funds in a non-politically acceptable way. It is a flow that begins with the taxpayer and ends with implicit help for the debtor:

    – The goverment pumps huge profit into the banks (via zero interest rates, fixed income gains etc.)
    – The banks take a hit on mortgages, yet keep their mouths shut, marking to market
    – The strategic defaulters put more cash into the economy
    – The banks look great because ZIRP PROFITS FAR OUTWEIGH (UNREALIZED) LOSSES
    – The economy looks great because extra consumer spending juices the goose

    I mean think about it. Imagine if the government said, straight up: “You know what? We are going to get this economy going again by writing fat checks to everyone who is underwater or in default, at the expense of all you guys (savers who pay taxes) who are not underwater and not behind in your bills.”

    Such a solution as described above — a DIRECT cash transfer, from savers to defaulters — would lead to even more outrage than what we’ve already seen. It would never fly.

    But by juicing the banks, in such a way that Fed-sponsored bank profits outweigh any short-term losses taken on strategic default hits — while further encouraging the banks to wink and nod at mass default situations, thus ENCOURAGING loose fiscal activity in the aftermath of blown credit — the government has engineered a politically palatable transfer scheme.

    It may well be that the strategic default meme has been overexaggerated. But the idea that consumers are just saying “woohoo, time to party” is a gross mischaracterization. There is evidence that suggests excess spending in the aftermath of a traumatic event is a natural reaction, and further that the government is encouraging this unholy transfer, from taxpayers to banks to defaulters, as a back-door means of sustaining the recovery, in similar fashion to the manner in which the government surreptitiously distributed billions to investment banks via AIG as a pass-through entity.

  40. Captain Jack says:

    p.s. NOT marking to market meant to say.